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Facing the Abyss: Hans Urs von Balthasar's
Reading of Anxiety



At the heart of Hans Urs von Balthasar's oeuvre is his preoccupation with the encounter between finite human freedom and infinite divine freedom. While Balthasar's many interpreters have assayed the meaning and implications of this preoccupation, little attention has been given to his consideration of the experiential dimension of the encounter, especially the psychological implications. This essay will address such implications by relating the experience of the encounter to the particular psychological phenomenon of anxiety. It is my conviction that Balthasar clearly identified a correlation between the increasing presence of existential anxiety in modernity with the failure of modern persons to understand rightly the encounter between God and the person. Balthasar's assessment of the relationship between the encounter and anxiety provides his readers with a stimulating and original reading that complements, indeed completes, the philosophical renderings of anxiety provided by his contemporaries. Since the phenomenon of anxiety has not abated, a retrieval of Balthasar's work on the subject is both warranted and timely.